Boy Sells Gum at Qalandiyah

The question is not morality, the question is money.
That’s what we’re upset about.
_____________________—Toni Morrison

There are bulldozers in these clouds. Bulldozers
in their clouds and they bring rain often. A boy
at Qalandiyah and they have stolen the wicks of
the stars. He shouldn’t be outside. Stones will fling
themselves in protest.

This Hebrewed land still speaks Arabic. Their
drones will rig this. The boy at Qalandiyah selling
gum. He shouldn’t be outside. He’ll be a thrower, a
catcher. A bulldozed bulldozer. Often.

What’s a boy doing winning bread under gallows?
And where’s the merit in that? Whose side is God
on? Some days it feels like they’ve unlocked prayer.
They prey often.

A man on the sidewalk explains natural selection.
As in the boy’s grip shouldn’t be softened. The man
says the boy’s walk looks too much like a song and
too little like a man walking.

A woman tells him a pen is a sword. What’s a pen
to a rifle? Another fed him a sonnet. If Shakespeare
was from here he wouldn’t be writing.
I write about Palestinian boys as if they’re older
than labor.

The boy is eight, which is twenty-two for Ameri
cans. The boy knows this. His mother calls him a
man in his nightmares. You’re a man now. A painter
stands in this, collecting strokes. A photographer
offers a helping hand. They want to build a muse-
um in his torture. The boy wins the bread knowing
he shouldn’t be.

He tells the photographer to pay him for his bread;
the photographer’s bread. For wallets fattened by

His mother calls him the man of the house. She
thinks it makes him feel better about the hunched
back he’s earned before the 6 a.m. of his life. The
gray he’s earned before the 6 a.m. of his life. Qa-
landiyah is gray often.

I drive by. I roll down my window. I buy what I
can. You shouldn’t be outside through the fire. What is
fear to the ferocious? I ask him to stop selling gum.
He tells me I don’t know a thing about this. Don’t
know a thing about the sun’s fingernails clawing
the back of his neck.
I’ll be quiet then.
I don’t know a thing,_______________________ truly,
Not a man________ yet. ____Not a man_____ often.

From Rifqa. Reproduced with kind permission of Haymarket.

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